Quality PPC campaigns can be very effective. Learn how to tailor them to your target audience to ensure customer satisfaction with these vital metrics.
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They say Mum always knows best but can the same be said for Google’s MUM update? Giant search engine, Google, launched their latest update as the answer we have been looking for to make internet searching more intuitive and inclusive.
But what does this mean for website owners, SEO practitioners, and agencies providing marketing services?
The Google Multitask Unified Model (MUM) update, aims to answer modern search demands by using an AI-powered algorithm to improve online search capability. When searching the internet, contradictory to expectations users are faced with multiple searches, geographical, and language barriers due to a lack of intuition on the search engine.
Google’s MUM will remove the need to carry out multiple searches that users currently do in order to compare and gain deeper insights. It has the ability to understand and bring solutions based not just on textual content but also an interpretation of images, videos, and podcasts in a way that was never possible before.
It understands 75 different languages which implies that it can pool and serve results to give users the most holistic and comprehensive search experience, answering even the most complex queries.
Google MUM will redefine search relevance changing the way people accesses and use information across the world wide web. This however, needs to be taken with a pinch of salt that not all content can be trusted and would eventually boil down to user discretion.
The MUM update means searches will serve information that provides helpful, related insights, and will reach further for these sources than any other search engine update before it.
Google believes that the MUM update is the answer.
Although in its early days the algorithm will continue to see iterations but it certainly looks to be an exciting move that Google is committed to build on. How? Google intends to follow these in order to ensure they can make it “the world’s best MUM” and remove any machine learning biases:
MUM interprets meaning in a people-friendly way, breaking down language barriers to provide us with the most comprehensive search engine capability ever.
It’s fast, far-reaching, and thorough as compared to any previous search engine update. This matters in a world where users want detailed, relevant, and accurate answers in seconds – anywhere, anytime.
This will remove silos in search dropping all the veils of language barriers and lack of intuition. It will view user queries, questions and comparison needs from all angles reducing the time we spend trying to find the right answers to elicit what we need.
For a long time, keywords and SEO content have been a critical part of how information is served and how it needs to match intent. Over recent years whilst this has remained important to draw attention to specifics, it has changed slightly to be more phrase friendly, finding keywords used in a more natural context. This certainly benefits the MUM search algorithm. It can provide nuanced answers to questions, using NLP, and in-depth world knowledge to gather additional information supplements by a mix of formats – text, images, or even video and audio in the future.
Its ability to think beyond the question or statement will tap into multiple dimensions of the SERP and SEO as a result. Users, businesses, and content creators are being encouraged to say goodbye to the “exact response days” and tap into the user intent and journey that is layered, complex, and sometimes more generalized.
Google MUM’s AI smarts will be another piece in mastering and understanding user intent and thought processes.
Imagine wanting to travel to a country and the questions you currently have to ask to find all you need to know. Firstly, you might wonder how you get there. Then you may search for where to stay, what’s in the area, for visas or vaccinations required and perhaps a bit about the weather and activities available. The list goes on and so does the time taken to search and sift through results.
We now want more, right away, and Google MUM is the beginning of meeting these needs.
MUM will find results in other languages, opening up a treasure chest of local and more insightful information than any previous Google search technology has ever offered. It aims to become your very own expert and translator, with the added value that you can expect from an enthusiastic human – succinctly delivered, plentiful detailed, and readily given in a language you understand, just like engaging with a human expert.
Searches are no longer inhibited by the words we choose. People can elicit more specific answers to questions by including an image, video or web page in our search. This ensure greater access to international content that previous search engines would not have recognized.
This breaking down of language barriers will allow users, SEOs, and businesses to see more localized insights and responses. On the SEO and digital marketing front, this also means – more competition! Local people create many reviews on areas or facilities, yet we currently miss what could be the best answer to our review style questions due to language barriers.
Unless users search sufficiently and widely using local terms, spellings or language nuances, they never discover pieces of information that would be an integral part of decision making.
While MUM will know it all (hopefully) since it uses the T5 text-to-text framework and is 1,000 times more powerful than BERT. We will still see answers to straightforward questions. But the ones that are less simple or don’t have a straight answer will flourish with this multi-modal approach. Imagine, what if the answer lies in an image that could be in Japanese?
Search engines have driven the way content is created, focusing heavily on keywords, phrases, intent, and other key factors. So should AI change how businesses, SEOs, and agencies think about attracting visitors and engaging them while ensuring we use the exposure Google MUM can offer? This is a far greater intelligent search algorithm that understands nuances and will bring more relevant and varied content to the fore.
Content that is wrongly pitched will disappear more readily than ever before. This reinstates how important the user experience, content, overall SEO, accessibility, and intent are for success in the age of digital. Content must, therefore, be better than a few placed keywords to make it anywhere in page rankings and it must make optimal use of multimedia formats that Google MUM looks at. End-users are MUM’s focus and that must be at the front of how content marketers work. This is important to remember when considering redesigning your website. We see it reinforcing the need for quality SEO and key phrase content if you want to be noticed.
Google MUM has a far greater ability to answer comparison style questions too.
“Will I find the same weather in Turkey as Egypt?” style questions will bring answers in one go. Previously we would have to dig around the information for each country and compare information ourselves. Not only will one question suffice to elicit temperatures for each, but it will offer added value information on each country that it knows people may have gone on to search. It may include relevant comparisons between the two countries, such as vaccinations or visa information, dress codes or helpful information that its AI capability recognizes as appropriate.
Like every launch, the latest proclaims to be the best. BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) was launched in 2019 and understood searches better than we have ever been able to before. Around this time, keywords became key phrases seeking to provide results based on user intent. In other words, content had to answer common questions.
Numbers tell us that MUM is 1000 times more powerful than BERT, so will MUM always know best? It undoubtedly would seem that this changes the face of search and SEO as we know it in 2021.
In all honesty, with fewer tricks to hide behind, what you need to make sure of when creating MUM-friendly content simply translates to quality. If it is interesting, relevant, and valuable to your end user, then it will be seen. It will widen the potential audience and bring more significant competition for visibility, and that is just as likely to be a good thing as bad for many.
Are we genuinely heading to an internet-driven world without barriers? While Google’s MUM seeks to understand more about what we might be looking for than any search engine has ever before, will this open up the search-scape to a truly more worldly experience? We can’t answer all the questions and there are many still to be asked as the rollout gathers pace. Only time will tell us how Google improvise MUM in the future. After all, technology and innovation never stand still for long.
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Plus the latest PPC coverage from SMX Convert
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The Google News app changes have about a week more to go.
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Did you know people send 306 billion emails each day? That number will likely hit 361 billion by 2024. It may seem like a saturated field, but marketers report that email marketing is their leading method for acquisition and retention.
Email marketing is a powerful tool when used correctly.
But, if you don’t follow email campaign best practices, it is easy to get lost in the shuffle of emails people receive every day. Your goal should be to stand out in an inbox full of offers and provoke a response from your audience.
An email marketing campaign is a series of time-bound emails that drive a specific audience to take a desired action. Email marketing campaigns can welcome new subscribers to your list, promote an event, announce a sale, highlight a product and deliver value-packed emails to your prospects. According to a 2018 report:
Emails should be part of your digital marketing strategy—working with other campaigns and targeting key audiences to help you reach a desired goal. This means that your emails should be tracked and metrics gathered so you can see the impact each part of your email campaign has on your audience.
There are several types of marketing campaigns. Some brands will default to promotional campaigns, but this becomes a brand-centric approach that alienates the customer. In a solid email marketing strategy, you will use a number of different campaign types.
Welcome Email Campaigns: Your first emails introduce new customers and subscribers to your brand. Consider what impression you want to make with your welcome email campaigns (hint: don’t push sales first!).
Nurture Email Campaigns (Drip Campaigns): Tied to a lead magnet, the emails in a nurture campaign are all sent out when a lead takes you up on an offer (like a free guide or eBook). These emails should help transition the lead from their interest in the initial offer into an interest in your brand.
Promotional Email Campaigns: Emails that promote your sales, events, webinars and products are crucial for helping boost engagement, but can quickly be overdone. The right email to the right person at the right time is a killer campaign worth its weight in gold.
Customer Support Email Campaigns: Support your exisitng customers in your email marketing campaigns because customer retention is more efficient than customer acquisition. How are your campaigns supporting the leads that have already converted?
To get great results, you need to do more than send out random emails. Your campaign should be carefully planned out and tracked for effectiveness. Here are crucial steps to take when running an email campaign.
You should never make a move without having specific goals in mind. Your marketing goals should be clearly defined so that you and your team can be on the same page. Establishing goals may seem intimidating, but they serve as a benchmark to see if you are getting the kind of traction you need from your campaigns. Always write SMART goals—Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely.
Your audience is filled with a wide variety of individuals at different stages in their journey with you. Treating your email marketing as a one-size-fits-all content hose is not going to benefit anyone.
When you segment your list, you can send out relevant emails to specific parts of your audience. You don’t want to send out a local event announcement for people in another country. You certainly wouldn’t want to send the same introductory emails to a loyal customer that you would send to a new lead.
You can segment your email list by things like:
As you plan your campaigns, consider which audiences you will target and craft content accordingly.
Set the time period during which your campaign will run. Your campaigns should be a concise series of related emails, which means you need dates established for sending out emails and pulling reports.
It’s more effective to time your emails with company events, product releases, seasonal dates and content publication. Create a content calendar to help create a defined visual of when campaigns will be finalized and published.
Using your segmented lists and content calendar, you will visibly map your content to show who you are contacting and how content will be delivered at the right time for them. The content calendar helps align content with publishing dates, while the content map helps you identify what kinds of content you are sending out.
A content calendar for email marketing might include segments like:
As you map out where your scheduled emails fall, you may notice a heavy trend in one area and lacking in another. Filling the gaps can help you create a more robust email marketing strategy that covers all your bases.
Don’t wait until it’s time to send out an email to write the email. Create your campaign before you even send out the first email. You can always adjust the content down the road.
If the goal is to be mindful and strategic with your emails, you want to make sure they all flow together right from the start. When writing your content remember:
Don’t just start firing off emails. Test them out to address as many issues and bugs as possible. You can write out a “pre-flight checklist” to check things like:
Testing your emails also helps ensure your content is completely ready to go by the deadline you’ve set in your content calendar. You can then schedule your emails so they are sent out during the best times for your target audience to increase your open rates and click-throughs.
Finally, choose key metrics that will tell you if you are achieving your specific goals for the campaign or not. While you might feel nervous about defining your goals, there are things worse than failing—specifically, pushing forward without realizing your campaigns are failing. Metrics are crucial because if your campaign doesn’t work as expected, you will know to adjust for the future.
Are you looking for a FREE email marketing service? Check out AWeber today and boost the success of your email marketing campaigns with access to our Smart Designer, award-winning customer service team, and more.
Are you ready to get started? Let’s talk!
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We already noted earlier this summer that Apple’s iOS 15 update is just around the corner – likely mid-September. As Apple rolls out new privacy protections for users, email service providers (like Benchmark Email) will have less data on some users. We’re excited to tackle this challenge head-on with the rest of the email marketing…
Leads are the lifeblood of any business, and a good lead generation strategy is key to long-term growth. Marketers and agencies focused on ROI are great at crunching the numbers and acquiring new leads. Unfortunately, quality leads often get lost as the workflow continues on. Interested prospects get left on read, long-term customers fall off…
The post 6 Tips On How To Triple the ROI on Your Lead Generation Efforts appeared first on Benchmark Email.
You’ve spent months crafting the “perfect” brand message, focus-grouping it to core demographics and psychographics, and lovingly/hatingly crafting hundreds of page titles. You wake up, grab your coffee, and fire up Google to admire your handiwork, only to see this:
For reference, here’s the original <title> tag:
You may be feeling confused and more than a little frustrated after Google’s recent title rewrite update, but why is Google rewriting title,s and what can we learn from it? I explored over 50,000 <title> tags to find out.
All of the data was collected from the MozCast 10,000-keyword tracking set on August 25, 2021, and compared to original title tags collected using Screaming Frog (we only attempted one collection, since these were third-party sites). Here’s a brief rundown:
85,340 page-one results
71,603 unique URLs
57,832 <title> tags
You might be doing the math right now, realizing that 58% of the <title> tags we tracked were rewritten, and rushing to Twitter to express your outrage. Please don’t — at least not yet.
First, there are bound to be quirks, like cached <title> tags that don’t match the current site, sites that blocked or modified our requests, cloaking, etc. I suspect those cases are relatively rare, but we can’t discount them.
Second, “rewrite” is a tricky word, because it implies a meaningful difference between the original version and rewritten version. Of this data set, over 13,000 <title> tags were over 600 pixels wide, the physical limit of Google’s desktop display title. Over 7,000 showed simple (…) truncation. Google has been doing this for years. Here’s an example from October 2011 (via the Wayback Machine):
Are these really “rewrites” in any meaningful sense? To understand what Google’s doing, and how it differs from the past, we need to dig deep into the unique scenarios at play.
Google can only fit so much on one line. That limit has changed over the years, but the basic fact remains. In many cases, <title> tags are just too long, and that’s not always a bad thing or necessarily spammy. Here’s one example and its corresponding search result:
This is a wordy <title> tag and we could certainly argue the merits of academic vs. marketing copy, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with or spammy about it. It simply doesn’t fit the available space, and Google has to account for that.
Even prior to the recent update, we saw a less common variant of this scenario, where Google would truncate a title and then append the brand after the “…”:
In this example, Google truncated the tag with “…” but then re-inserted the brand. Note that the original pipe (|) was replaced with a hyphen (-).
More recently (and possibly beginning with the August 16th update), Google is truncating long titles without displaying ellipses (…) and, in some cases, taking the display title from other elements of the page. For example:
This text actually appears in the middle of the <title> tag, but it’s possible that it was extracted from somewhere else on the target page. I would argue that this is a pretty successful truncation that serves the search query (in this case, “Dodd Frank”).
This scenario tends to overlap with 1-3 — sometimes titles are too long and have clearly been stuffed with keywords. I can’t speak to anyone’s motivations, but here’s an example that seems pretty egregious:
Mistakes were made, etc. Interestingly, this rewrite seems to be pulled from an <H2> on the page, but an entire paragraph is wrapped in that <H2>.
These are fun. Let’s do another one:
This reminds me of that joke, “An SEO walks into a bar, grill, tavern, pub, public house…”. In this case, it appears that Google is taking the truncated title from the primary <H1> on the page. It’s hard to fault Google for rewriting either of these examples.
These extreme examples can be entertaining, but it appears Google has also made some significant changes around less-extreme situations where phrases are strung together with separators like pipes (|). Here’s one example:
While this <title> tag does appear over-optimized, it’s obviously a far less problematic example than the previous two. Google seems to be taking a dim view of pipes (|) in general with this new update. In our data set, over 10,000 titles with pipes were rewritten, and nearly 6,000 of those were below the pixel-width limit.
In some of these cases, the original <title> tags simply appear to be reflecting the site’s information architecture. Take this example from Zales:
While you could make an argument that echoing the site’s IA isn’t particularly helpful to searchers, there’s nothing spammy or misleading about this <title> tag. It appears Google may be getting too aggressive with rewriting delimited phrases.
For a while now, Google has been appending brand names to the end of display titles in some cases. Here’s one example:
We don’t know exactly what signals Google uses to make this call. It could be a function of brand authority or based on measuring some kind of SERP engagement signals. In the case of a high-authority brand like WebMD that’s only five letters long, this change may be beneficial.
What about long brand names, though? Consider the example below:
Here, Google has exchanged a naturally-sounding and relevant title for a combination of the <H1> content and the brand name. Unfortunately, the addition of the 27-character brand name severely limits the rest of the display title. Fortunately, across a few hundred brand name addition examples I reviewed, this appears to be a rare occurrence.
One surprisingly common occurrence since the August 16th update is when Google takes a <title> tag with the brand name at the end and moves it to the beginning. For example:
Here, Google has moved the brand name to the front, followed by a colon (:), and has also shortened “I.T.” to “IT”. This version (with “IT”) is nowhere to be found in the page source.
On occasion, Google seems to be doing the opposite, and moving a brand name at the beginning of the <title> tag to the end of the display title. Here’s one example:
Unlike the back-to-front move, I believe this example is actually a variant of scenario #3. Google appears to be truncating the <title> tag and appending the brand name to the end of it. The removal of the brand name from the front is probably an accident of truncation.
Channeling a bit of Goldilocks, sometimes your <title> tag is too long for Google and sometimes it’s too short. Here’s an example from a recipe result:
This one’s an odd duck (pun intended) — in addition to appending the brand name, Google has expanded the title, and that exact phrase appears nowhere in any major page elements.
Here’s an example where Google rewrote a brand-only <title> tag:
Again, this was pulled from an <H1> tag on the page. What’s unclear is whether Google is rewriting these titles because they’re too short or because they aren’t particularly relevant to the query space. This brings us to Scenario #8:
At this point we don’t really know the exact trigger for a rewrite, but it does seem like some titles are being rewritten because they aren’t a good fit to query intent. Sadly, dozens of pages in this data set still had some variant of “Home” as their <title> tag:
In the majority of these cases, Google is rewriting the display title as the brand name. Of course, “Home” is also potentially just too short. Here’s an example of a longer <title> tag where relevance might have come into play:
Putting aside the odd orphaned pipe (|) at the beginning, I’d argue that this <title> tag is generic marketing copy that doesn’t do much to inform searchers.
That last case led me down a bit of a rabbit hole, and I’m not sure if this is a sub-case of #8 or a separate phenomenon. There were about 700 cases in our data set where Google rewrote a <title> tag with the word “Best” in it to remove that word. Here’s another example:
Once again, Google pulled the <H1> from the target page, but the rewrite and the original <title> tag share very similar intent and format. It’s possible that Google is taking a dim view of superlatives like “Best,” but that’s only a theory at this point.
Note that there were over 3,000 <title> tags in our data set where “Best” did not get removed, but some of those were contextually important, like “Best Man Speech” or “Best Buy” (the electronics retailer).
Speaking of superlatives, here’s an amusing one:
I think we can probably all agree that “Must Do Super Fun Things to Do” is pushing the envelope. Again, we can’t really prove what specifically is triggering this rewrite, but the pattern here is interesting.
We saw some similar patterns around marketing terms like “cheap,” “official,” and “2021.” Here’s the kicker, though: in some cases, Google is taking <title> tags without superlatives and adding them back in. For example:
Here, Google took a perfectly nice <title> tag, and chose the <H1> that included both “Best” and “Bespoke” instead. This begs the question — are <title> tags with words like “Best” being rewritten because of specific content, or are they being rewritten because of other factors, like length or keyword-stuffing, that just happen to be correlated with that content?
We’ve long suspected that Google would rewrite some display titles in real-time based on their relevance (or irrelevance) to the search query. In Google’s explainer about the August 16th update, though, they stated the following:
Last week, we introduced a new system of generating titles for web pages. Before this, titles might change based on the query issued. This generally will no longer happen with our new system.
So, are we seeing any evidence of query-based rewrites after the August 16th update? One way to test this is to look for pages/URLs that rank for multiple keywords and show different display titles (even though, being one URL, they share a <title> tag). For example:
The first result appeared on a search for “department of corrections,” and the second result on a search for “prison inmate search.” While this seems interesting at first glance, these results were collected across two different locations (and probably two different data centers). When I attempted to reproduce this difference from a single location, I only got back a single (rewritten) display title.
In our data set, only 96 URLs showed multiple display titles and only one of those showed more than two variants. In every case I spot-checked from a single location, those variants disappeared. It appears that Google really has removed or dramatically reduced query-based rewriting.
There’s currently no way to tell Google not to rewrite your <title> tag (although this latest update has the industry buzzing for that ability), but we can use the scenarios above to develop a few guidelines.
Changing your <title> tags at scale is a time-consuming job and carries risk. Before you overreact, collect the data. Are your display titles even being affected? Are these changes impacting your click-thru rate or organic search traffic? Is that impact negative? Frankly, we also don’t know when and how Google might adjust this update. If you’re seeing serious negative consequences, then definitely take action, but don’t panic.
While Moz tools track <title> tags that exceed the length limit, my advice the past couple of years has basically been “Be aware of the limit, but don’t lose sleep over it.” Truncation isn’t the kiss of death, as long as the important bits of the <title> tag appear before the cut-off.
Now, I may have to revise that advice. With truncation, you at least control the pieces that happen before the cut-off. Now that Google is potentially rewriting long titles completely, you could end up with substantially different display titles.
I hope that most of the people reading this article aren’t engaging in old-school keyword-stuffing, but we may have to be even more careful now, especially with stringing phrases together using delimiters like pipes (|). I hope Google tones down this particular case, as a lot of non-spammy titles seems to be getting caught up in the mix.
This was good advice long before the recent update. Frankly, no one cares about your marketing copy when they’re trying to find something and scanning results. Write for the average intent of the audience you’re trying to attract. It’ll reduce the chances your display titles get rewritten, but it’ll also drive relevant clicks and engagement.
For now, I think the best thing you can do is be aware of the situation and try to assess how much it impacts your site. If the impact is minimal, there are far better uses of your SEO efforts than rewriting hundreds of <title> tags. One exception to this advice is if your CMS is creating a pattern of problematic titles. In that case, a small tweak (or a few small tweaks) could yield sizable results.
WordPress published a useful, early case study about how they spotted a problematic rewrite and fixed it. I think this approach — consciously focusing on high-impact pages — is a good one with potentially high ROI.
If you’d like to take a crack at the raw data, I’ve made it available in Google Sheets. These are the 57,832 unique URLs from which were able to extract <title> tags. All data was collected on August 25-26, 2021 on Google.com (en-US) via desktop SERPs. Please note that some <title> tag data may be inaccurate if the sites in question modified or redirected the request. For example, I believe the “Amazon.com” <title> tags with no other text do not properly reflect the original tags.
Links drive rankings — that’s one thing that technical SEOs, content marketers, digital PR folks, and even some of #SEOTwitter can agree on. But which rankings, and for which pages on your website?
If you’ve ever wanted to build links that impact rankings for specific pages on your website, we’ve got the guide for you.
Preparing a link building campaign often involves helping the client refine their goals in order to be able to effectively measure the campaign. The first step is typically level-setting based on what we can learn from available data.
Comparing link metrics against top competitors will help us size up the competition. Layered against estimated traffic, Page Authority, and SEO “difficulty”, and we’re able to better understand the opportunity. While this isn’t particularly complex or inaccessible, it’s likely deeper than the client has gone, and very often they’re happy to move forward with data-informed recommendations.
If we were preparing a link building campaign for Moz, for example, we might pre-select some sections of the site to focus on in the analysis.
Suppose we start with /products/, /tools/ the beginners guide pages (love those), and a few others that jump out. Here are a few pages from that list:
From here, we would compile a list of competitors based on top keywords for each of the pages. That will let us compare average metrics across the top competitors to the metrics for Moz’s pages.
This dataset represents the top 10 competitors from the top 10 keywords for each of Moz’s pages. Once compiled, we’ll have 90-100 rows of competitor data, give or take, depending on where Moz ranks for each page in the list. We can average the competitor data to make it easy to compare, and spot-check from there to look for outliers, or filter out branded or stray keywords we don’t want to compete for anyway:
Now it’s time to look for opportunities. We can eye-ball the metrics in a shortlist like this, but if we’re looking at hundreds or thousands of pages (even after filtering it down), this gets a little cumbersome. Prioritizing the pages will help us look more quickly through the list and find the best opportunities.
In a scenario where it’s a short pilot program, some of these competitors have scary-high linking root domains, and we’re going to have an idea of a monthly budget to set our pilot up for success by not biting off more than we can chew.
So, we’ll add a couple columns to help some of these stand out. To help find the low-hanging fruit, we might look at the relationship to the gap in linking root domains of the competition and our potential campaign page, and the search volume from those top 10 keywords:
By dividing the link gap into the search volume, we can look at higher priority pages for the campaign based on the probability of reducing the linking root domain gap, in order to improve the client’s share of voice on high-converting pages.
Adding rank-order to the rows will help us look at the best potential opportunities:
From this group of pages, the Moz Pro product page seems to be a pretty tasty candidate. We might stay away from the free SEO tools page since, well, “free” doesn’t necessarily scream REVENUE, but it’s worth a conversation to verify. The same can be said for a couple of those beginner guide pages as well.
Even if none end up in the campaign, we’ll still be able to assess the link gap for pages that ARE the targets, and help steer Moz towards effective linking choices
After a few refinements, we’ll have a very solid set of potential campaign pages to recommend!
We build out our model of audience based on the specific client URL that we’re building links to. So, for sales pages, we’re thinking about where, how, when, and why that product or service fits into the customer’s life. What are its various contexts of use? What circumstances or conditions benefit from the use of this offering?
The offering’s contexts of use are intrinsically relevant to the target URL, whether or not the same keyword is used to describe them. For example, if we target the Moz Pro page identified above, we’d start asking ourselves: “when is it that agencies and in-house SEOs start thinking about SEO tools?”
Perhaps we explore that point where someone has to pick up the SEO projects left behind by someone whose career has taken them elsewhere. What’s the checklist like for following behind another SEO? Additionally, what about an SEO crash course for folks who suddenly find themselves in charge of an SEO department (we’ve spoken with people in this situation before). Both of these scenarios could give ample reason and circumstance to mention SEO tools. For either of these examples, an expert survey, expert interviews, and off-site informational placements could enable contextual linking opportunities.
Let’s step outside of the SEO space though and think about insurance sales pages. We could begin mapping out the circumstances and events in life as one decides to seek insurance: Events like having your first child, becoming an independent contractor, buying a home, having a cardiac-related scare, etc.
From these “use-case brainstorms”, we work up into problem areas — and related queries — that the target audience might be having. These give us a basis for discovering publishers that align the audience of the target page with its contexts of usage. For Moz, we’d likely focus on marketing trade pubs — SEO or not. For the insurance pages, we’d likely start with parenting blogs, health/fitness publishers, websites relating to starting a business, and potentially realtor sites.
For good measure, we frequently examine high ranking pages in the target keyword space to learn more about what we call the “linking context” for a given set of keywords. We’re especially focused on the titles of linking pages. This gives instant insight into topics that make sense for prospect discovery. We usually find things like long form guides, tons of coupon pages, review sites, forums, etc. — all of this gives us a better sense of the linking context.
Combined, use-case brainstorms and linking context analysis help us build out a full picture of the audiences and key problems that will lead us to suitable publishers.
Outreach is simple. Well, sort of.
If you understand what the publisher wants, which is ultimately related to how they make a living, then you figure out how to pitch and deliver just that.
If you’re in the digital PR space pitching journalists, you’re pitching your ability to drive “audience engagement” (as we’ve picked up from Neomam CEO, Gisele Navarro). So your subject line and offer need to clearly drip with page views, click-throughs, and social shares. And your content has to deliver. After all, with the high content costs involved you’ll need to reuse your contacts!
If you’re in broken link building (and to a lesser extent, a tactic like unlinked mentions), you’re offering “visitor experience improvements” to a webmaster or page curator who’s dedicated to a particular audience. With this in mind, your subject line and offer (a fix) must demonstrate value to the target audience, as well as mention the impact the broken link could have on an expectant visitor in need.
We find that when pitching guest content, especially to sales-supported publishers, we see higher conversions when we pitch topics that will help drive the publisher’s traffic or conversions. You can learn more about our guest content approach in this Whiteboard Friday, but again, we lean into pitching “publishing benefits” to the site owner.
So your key question: what is this person’s purpose for publishing to their particular audience? Knowing this helps you determine an offer that will resonate, and earn you a link.
One last bit of advice on outreach: avoid directly implementing subject lines, templates, etc. from other experts. Be inspired by the experts, but remember that their advice involves very specific offers, audiences, and publishers, and they are unlikely to align with your actual circumstances. Study them, for sure, but only for understanding general guidelines.
Every functional link building tactic earns its links by meeting the target publisher’s unstated “price” for reaching their audience.
The publisher’s cost can certainly be money, but in the earned link space, we’re usually talking about supplying publishers with value such as exclusive news and information, previously unstated but highly useful advice, articles that could help them sell more products or services, and useful corrections that shore up authority.
We’re reminded, as we discuss value exchange, of a campaign by the link builder Debra Mastaler, in which she offered a cement client’s t-shirt to the members of several dues-supported professional organizations. She not only earned links from the organization websites (who got to provide a “special perk” to their members), but earned business and, of course, brand visibility within their precise target audience. Wow!
So, while a free t-shirt may not work in all verticals, Mastaler reminds us of the most overlooked aspect of link building campaigns: finding publishers who reach your target audience and asking “okay, what can we offer that they will actually want?”. Creative, entrepreneurial thinking — perhaps you could call it marketing instinct? — remains the link builder’s most important tactic.
That said, reviewing the existing array of link building tactics can be very useful, especially as you’re starting out, just as a budding chef spends time reading cookbooks to understand key ingredients and guiding principles. And as it is for the budding chef, your greatest lessons will come from the hours spent in the kitchen, working on your craft.
Check out this graphic for a quick overview of some of the more common tactics and their relationships between the publishers and your desired SEO outcomes:
This is one of the most challenging aspects of a campaign for myriad reasons.
It’s also one of the most effective ways to retain clients, or budget, if you’re on the in-house side.
There are a number of ways to track the performance of a link building campaign, but which methods are chosen largely depends on the tactics deployed. In our case, we’re focused on the content side, and specialize in earning placements to hard-to-link sales landing pages. We approach our measurements of success from the perspective of SEO-related metrics that will show both leading indicators of improvements, and the right performance indicators once we have had impact.
Early on in a campaign, we often see a worsening of average position. The cause of this is typically new keywords ranking on the campaign page. Because the page initially begins to rank on SERP #7 or #8, this will initially pull down the average rank of the page, even if the rank for established keywords is improving.
This graph underscores one of the risks of focusing too heavily on rank as the primary success metric. While average position (the purple line) shows a decline in average position, we can see in the stacked columns that not only is the total number of ranking keywords growing, it’s also growing nicely in positions 1-3 (the blue segment at the top), as well as positions 4-10 (the orange segment 2nd from top). Just not enough to keep up with newly ranking keywords further down in the SERPs.
Correlating ranking changes to ranking keyword count was paramount to continuing this campaign.
While we track and report on average position over time, we certainly don’t lead with it. Instead, we focus on metrics that more directly correlate to traffic and conversions, which positions us for demonstrating positive ROI of the campaign.
The metrics that matter for us are share of voice (a search volume-weighted CTR model) and Moz Page Authority.
The benefit for us of prioritizing share of voice over ranking is that it normalizes dramatic shifts in time series reports based on ranking fluctuations from low-volume queries. Ranking reports, as we all know, can be a serious roller coaster.
Share of voice, on the other hand, aligns with an estimated traffic model, expressed as a percentage of total traffic for the keyword set.
As seen in the graph above, we also include a control group: a second set of pages on the site that are not part of the campaign (and preferably not part of any concerted SEO effort). This second set of pages is chosen from similar sections of the site and from similarly ranking and visited pages when possible, to measure the success of our link building campaign against.
While the graph above does indicate positive growth just with the bars, when we determine the percentage difference between our campaign pages and the control group, the results are even more dramatic.
Another critical metric is Moz Page Authority, which is often another early indicator of imminent success. We sometimes see Page Authority increase even before we see improvement to rankings and share of voice.
And again, tracking against a control group helps to underscore the value of our work.
Another benefit of Page Authority: Third party validation of the direct impact of our work.
While many factors outside of the scope of our link building campaign may affect rank, such as core algorithm updates, gaps in page content, topic misalignment or technical issues inhibiting Google’s full valuation of the page), a metric that is best influenced by “improving a page’s link profile by… getting external links”, aligns very well with our offering.
And hey, we think using a third party metric to validate the hard work we’re doing for our clients is pretty okay in our book (now in its second edition!).
Questions? More link building tips? Share them with us on Twitter.